Avoid bandwagons, be cautiously innovative

By Jeff Bowman

There has been a trend over the past 10 years or more to try to spot the next trend.  It appears to be the trendy thing to do in business.  As trendy as it might seem, it can be a very risky venture if you make bad decisions at the wrong time.

I am certainly not immune to jumping on the trend bandwagon, and making bold predictions about what would and could be. If I was in a position to be investing from a business standpoint, I would have ended up as one of those business failure statistics that we all read about.

In the mid 70’s the laserdisc was hot, and by the time I purchased several of the latest films on disc, it was all over.  A miserable failure.  I graduated a couple of years later to the betamax machine, it was the future of home theatres, highly touted by everybody who knew anything about the future of electronics. It lasted several years, however gave way to VHS.  My collection of beta movies was donated to the local Thrift store. Even today I am left wondering what to do with my 200 VHS movies!

These technological trends aside, I am old enough to remember a couple of real beauties that were predicted, documented and fed to us every day as the future.  The businesses that invested in products and services related to the oil crises in 1973 and the coming of the next ice age due to global cooling around the same time, may have made some short-term profits, but likely suffered long-term pains.

My skepticism about jumping on the trend bandwagon remains with me as a business person today.

The trends I look towards now are largely demographic, and as a marketer that is where I should be focusing my attention. Canada has an aging population, so the opportunities that exist for businesses in any related field to that market make good sense. The trick is when to enter the market to minimize the risk factors.  Some experts will tell you that you need to be on the leading edge in order to capitalize on the potential.  I disagree.

There is a curve called the Law of Diffusion of Innovation. The law states that there is a period of time before the mass market will accept the product or service. Until the innovators and early adopters accept the product, more than 80% of potential buyers will not make the purchase. I would prefer as a small business to wait until the early majority begins to accept and purchase. This is the point where momentum will take the product to that 84% of the market that remains.  There is less chance of early rejection, and more time for market forces to make changes and innovations as the product matures. It’s always nice to be the first into a market, the innovator, but keep in mind that you are also the most vulnerable at that point to failure.  True entrepreneurs will take the risk, small business owners should be a little more conservative in their approach.

Take the time, look at the trends, and break the potential down into critical categories where needs will begin to emerge.  If you can capitalize on a growing need, that is the key to success in any business.

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Filed under Innovation, Invention, Jeff Bowman, Sales, Strategic Planning

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